“Every Human being is an artist, a freedom being, called to participate in transforming and reshaping the conditions, thinking and structures that shape and inform our lives”

Joseph Beuys

Is it normal to experience a feeling of dread every Monday Morning?

There was a time when it was mostly lower earning employees who experienced the negative effects of organisational ‘restructuring’. Now we find many professionals dealing with the stresses of job insecurity and reducing earnings whilst simultaneously wrestling with the demand for higher productivity and performance outcomes.

Meanwhile in the public sector, as workloads intensify, many people are spending less time focusing on their primary work and more time in backrooms working on computers. Ironically, a lot of this ‘backroom time’ is used in order to account for the primary work they do. This is often done so organisations can provide the necessary statistics to funding providers to hopefully secure the following year’s tender.
The cumulative effect of increased working hours, stagnant wages and job insecurity is that a significant percentage of the UK workforce (management now included) feel deskilled, undervalued, resentful and creatively empty.
Some may seek a new career, but the vacancies advertised do not seem very attractive. Often we see employers openly expressing the need for potential workers to be able to thrive in a continually stressful environment.
Let us take a look at physical stress. Imagine you have been sent to a hospital, having injured your back through putting it under stress. What advice would the doctor give? They would tell you to stop putting your back under stress and you would then be given treatment in order for you to heal.
Mental stress should be no different, it needs more than a two hour ‘resilience’ class to recover from what can be potentialy be a completely overwhelming experience.
Some people challenge the enforced pressure and stress of the workplace by becoming more politically organised. This can be an important action for positive change. However, it is equally important for all of us to examine the role internal transformation can play in reshaping the environment we inhabit. Unfortunately, this is an area often unrecognised or seen as of secondary importance.
If we inhabit a mind filled with worry, anxiety or anger, we initiate limited response mechanisms. For example, when arguing for things to be different, we may find ourselves using language that causes others to respond in an excessively defensive way, making it almost impossible for them to hear our requests, no matter how valid they may be.
If we can become free, even for a short time, from painful and negative thoughts, we can enter an internal space that is absent from habitual, destructive thought patterns. With practice, we can experience a sense of freedom and clarity that affords us opportunities to respond to situations in new and exciting, creative ways.
There is an old story that we have been listening to for a very long time. The old story tells us that the more resources we gather, the more power we obtain, the more control we have over others, the more we turn to quick, instant fixes to end our problems … the easier our lives become. The reality, however, is that we have been sold a false narrative. We only have to look around to see that it is the people who are most committed to this story who are often the most unhappy, acting in the most destructive ways with little thought for the future.
This is sometimes referred to as the old story of self. When we obtain some of the tools that enable us to make a clearing from this old story, we can begin to appreciate our commonalities, and we can speak to others in ways that resonate. Then what happens? People listen. People listen because their defensive mechanisms are no longer on high alert.
In this space, we uncover possibilities; possibilities to create change in ways that we may never have imagined.
I use the terms positive disruptions and positive distancing. If we treat all of the thoughts we generate as stories, we can see that we hold strong tendencies to tell ourselves the same or similar stories time and time again. The more we repeat a story, the more we inhabit it – the more solid and real it becomes. If it is a story of hopelessness and despair then this becomes our reality.
One of Freeclarity’s main aims is to act as a positive disrupter; disrupting unhelpful limiting stories in gentle, fun and imaginative ways. We do this in order to create positive distancing between ourselves and our old stories thereby being agency for people to create new internal frameworks for change.
How do we this? By bringing new experiences to groups, and in this way we can forge new alliances of methodologies to disrupt and inspire.
We may use art therapy combined with creative thinking techniques or mindfulness practice and philosophy, together with performance or music workshops.
Of prime importance to us is that we engage with others in ways that are safe and do not make people feel uncomfortable. This means, for example, we are able to deliver drama workshops to people who freeze in horror at the thought of taking part in a group activity or engage in mindfulness therapy with people who have difficulty being still for even a few moments.
Although the professionals who work in conjunction with Freeclarity hold a wide variety of beliefs, we all share a common understanding: that in order to create lasting positive external change, internal change is also necessary.
We believe that through the ongoing creation of new stories, everyone can harness the inner potentials that help effect lasting change. In this way, we can find the possibilities in a Monday morning as opposed to the dread.

Stephen Givnan.